I celebrated my
birthday this week. I mean that literally – I really celebrated it. This is
significant for me because in past years I’ve greeted my birthday like a
smelly, irritating relative that comes to stay every year, whose presence I
endure with practised stoicism. The only celebration would happen the day
after, when I’d wake up awash with relief that it was all over for another
My reasons for resenting
my birthday were partly due to the fact that it drew attention to me – and
as an introvert, this is excruciating. Seriously, I will vote for the next
politician who promises to ban the singing of Happy Birthday in workplaces. *shudder*
But at the heart of
my day-of-birth anxiety was the fact that they were a reminder that
another year had passed and I was not living the life I wanted to live.
was a sense that I was running out of time to be happy, or to achieve a life
that looked anywhere near as glossy as those of my peers. Every year my misery increased exponentially
as I was faced with the realisation that my life had not changed significantly
from how it looked at the last birthday.
This year, however,
I’ve made some major internal changes during the year that have affected the way I see myself and my future.
I have a clearer sense of my life purpose and, most significantly, the value that I hold. I
can look back on my regrets without feeling burdened by them. Right now I’m in
the process of changing careers, so I don’t feel stuck or inadequate professionally any more.
I no longer fret about being single, nor interpret this as evidence that I am
flawed. It feels like I have enough time, and enough support from the Universe,
to grow to a point that I can emotionally handle, and flourish in, a relationship.
I have wonderful
friendships in which I have a sense of belonging and feel valued. Actually,
this is probably the most significant change of all when it comes to birthdays.
I can still remember the despair and humiliation of my 32nd birthday when only
two people showed up for drinks. As I write this post, I’m preparing to meet 18
friends for my birthday celebrations. This blows my mind – 18 people like me
enough to come and celebrate with me!
What all this amounts to is me having dropped my ideas of how my life should look – which is what was
causing my birthday angst in the past. Instead I’ve arrived at something very close
to acceptance of what is. I can recognise and celebrate the many blessings in my life and I don’t feel myself disappearing into the blistering chasm between the hand I imagined I would play, and
the hand I’ve been dealt. In addition, I know how much power I have to bring about change, so I’ve dropped my self-pity I used to hold.
Most crucially, I’ve
stopped comparing myself to other people on the regular. On this point my resolve gets
tested often (particularly on social media) but I’m better able to detach from comparisons, and jealousy. This
is not easy when you’ve grown up in New Zealand, a country where your
relationship status is prized above any personal attributes or achievements. But
it’s in my choices, not my circumstances, that I measure my worth now.
This is the first year
that I truly understand exactly how much I have to celebrate, and I have good reason
to believe that will expand and deepen as I age. In a culture
obsessed with time and deadlines, my anchoring principles are these: I am exactly where I am
supposed to be, and the best is yet to come.
I still hate that
fucking office birthday singalong though.